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The Latest | Trump listens intently at hush money trial as former Enquirer publisher testifies

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump returned to court Thursday morning as witness testimony in his hush money trial entered a third day.

The trial resumed at the same time that the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Washington over whether he should be immune from prosecution for actions he took during his time as president.

At his trial in Manhattan, veteran tabloid publisher David Pecker took the stand earlier in the week, testifying about his longtime friendship with the former president and a pledge he made to be the “eyes and ears” of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Pecker returned to the stand Thursday.

The testimony was sought to bolster prosecutors’ premise that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 election through a “catch-and-kill” strategy to buy up and then spike negative stories. Key to that premise are so-called hush money payments that were paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, along with the doorman.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of those payments and falsely recorded them as legal expenses.

He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.


— No one is above the law. Supreme Court will decide if that includes Trump while he was president

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— Trump trial day 6 highlights: David Pecker testifies on ‘catch-and-kill’ scheme

— Key players: Who’s who at Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial

— The hush money case is just one of Trump’s legal cases. See the others here

Here’s the latest:


Former President Donald Trump listened intently Thursday at his hush money trial as longtime friend David Pecker testified in detail about the National Enquirer’s efforts to buy and kill unflattering stories related both to Trump and other celebrities.

He passed along notes to the two attorneys on either side of him.

Pecker testified that Karen McDougal demanded $150,000 — plus writing assignments and other business opportunities — for the rights to her story about claims of an affair with Trump. But according to Pecker, it wasn’t clear who was going to pay for it.

Pecker said Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, initially asked him to front the costs: “I said, ‘Michael, why should I pay? I just paid $30,000 for the doorman story. Now you’re asking me to pay $150,000 for the Karen story, plus all of these other additional items that she wants to do.’”

When asked how he would be reimbursed, Pecker said, Cohen assured him: “Don’t worry about it. I’m your friend. The boss will take care of it.”


Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker took the stand Thursday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York and recalled receiving a telephone call from Trump during the tabloid’s pursuit of former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s claims of an extramarital affair.

“When I got on the phone, Mr. Trump said to me, ‘Karen is a nice girl. Is it true that a Mexican group is looking to buy her story for $8 million?’” Pecker said. “I said, ‘I absolutely don’t believe there’s a Mexican group out there looking to buy her story for $8 million.’”

Trump then asked Pecker what he should do, the ex-publisher said. Pecker testified that he told Trump, “I think you should buy the story” and keep it quiet.

“I believed the story was true,” Pecker explained. “I thought it would be very embarrassing to himself and to his campaign.”


Prosecutors asked the judge Thursday as former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumed to consider whether he violated a gag order four more times with remarks he made outside court this week.

Among others, prosecutor Christopher Conroy flagged comments that Trump made just Thursday morning at an early-morning press event about David Pecker. Pecker, the former National Enquirer publisher who has been testifying as a prosecution witness, returned to the stand Thursday.

Trump had said Pecker has “been very nice,” which Conroy characterized as “a message to Pecker: Be nice.” He argued that it’s also a message to other potential witnesses that Trump has a platform and will use it to attack them if they aren’t kind to him.

The judge hasn’t immediately ruled on Conroy’s request to hold Trump in contempt and levy “appropriate sanctions.”


Donald Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in lower Manhattan as his criminal hush money trial readied to resume Thursday.

After a morning campaign event in midtown, the former president returned to Trump Tower, then left again in the motorcade.

Addressing reporters in the hallway before court resumed, Trump began by speaking not about the trial, but instead the economy, griping about gas prices and the latest economic numbers.

He again addressed the Supreme Court, which is hearing oral arguments Thursday on whether he’s immune from prosecution in a case charging him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“I would have loved to have been there,” Trump said.


Donald Trump, visiting construction workers for a campaign stop Thursday before heading to court in his criminal hush money case, was dismissive when asked about prosecutors’ push for the judge to hold him in contempt of violating a gag order because of his social media posts.

“Oh, I have no idea,” Trump said when asked whether he would pay the $1,000 fine for each of 10 posts. He then said, “They’ve taken my constitutional right away with a gag order.”

Trump also briefly remarked on his friendship with tabloid publisher David Pecker, who began testimony Tuesday and is expected to retake the stand again Thursday.

Trump was asked by reporters what he thought of the testimony and when he last spoke to Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, and Trump responded by saying, “David’s been very nice, a nice guy.”


Donald Trump addressed Thursday’s Supreme Court arguments from New York, where he was visiting construction workers for a campaign stop before heading to court in his criminal hush money case.

“A president has to have immunity,” he told reporters as a crowd cheered behind him. If you don’t have immunity, you just have a ceremonial president.”

He again complained that the judge in his case in New York wouldn’t excuse him from court to attend the Supreme Court arguments in person. Criminal defendants are expected to appear in court every day during their trials.


Donald Trump is accused of falsifying internal Trump Organization records as part of a scheme to bury damaging stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign, particularly as Trump’s reputation was suffering at the time from comments he had made about women.

The allegations focus on payoffs to two women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock. Trump says none of these supposed sexual encounters occurred.

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill” in which a publication pays for exclusive rights to someone’s story with no intention of publishing it, either as a favor to a celebrity subject or to gain leverage over the person.

Prosecutors say Trump’s company reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments, all of which were falsely logged in Trump Organization records as legal expenses. Cohen has separately pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments.


David Pecker, formerly the publisher of the National Enquirer, took the stand both Monday and Tuesday and testified about how his longtime friendship with the former president culminated in an agreement to warn Donald Trump’s personal lawyer about stories that could damage the White House hopeful’s 2016 campaign and help quash them.

Pecker told the court that the agreement followed an August 2015 meeting with Trump, Michael Cohen and Hope Hicks. He further testified that he told the National Enquirer bureau chiefs to be on the lookout for any stories involving Trump and said he wanted them to verify the stories before alerting Cohen.

“I told him that we are going to try to help the campaign and to do that I want to keep this as quiet as possible,” Pecker testified. “I did not want anyone else to know this agreement I had and what I wanted to do.”


Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars.

A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.


Judge Juan M. Merchan has yet to rule on whether or not Donald Trump violated a gag order barring him from making public statements about witnesses in his hush money case.

Merchan held a hearing Tuesday on prosecutors’ earlier request that Trump be held in contempt of court and fined at least $3,000 for allegedly violating his gag order.

Prosecutors cited 10 posts on Trump’s social media account and campaign website that they said breached the order, which bars him from making public statements about witnesses in the case.

They called the posts a “deliberate flouting” of the court’s order.

In one post, from April 10, Trump described his former lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen and porn actor Stormy Daniels as “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!”

Prosecutors are seeking a $1,000 fine — the maximum allowed by law — for each of the first three alleged violations.

The Associated Press

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